Insanity.

I believe the term is Insanity – to do the same thing and expect different results.

There are two scenarios- when a business is losing money or has hit a plateau.

When this happens, you can’t do the same thing you’ve always done (waiting for the economy to recover is not in your budget, trust me). You’re going to have to change something. Do something different.

Maybe you need to spend less time in the office and more time on the sales floor. Maybe you need to get a new sign and clean up the front door, maybe you need a new marketing campaign.

The moral of the story is that you have to do something new to get a new result.

Here are 3 things you can do to get started.

Look at your front door. Is it inviting? Do your customers know who you are? Go stand out front with an objective lens and decide whether or not you would shop there. Is it too cluttered? Don’t litter your entrance with signs. Keep it simple: business hours and possibly one other promotional sign (NOT handwritten). I also allow “Local First” stickers if they are off to the side and in good condition. But that’s it, nothing else!

Network. Go talk to the other businesses in your area (within walking distance), start a relationship with them. Don’t sell them anything, just go be a good neighbor, learn about what they do and refer some business their way. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your business. Givers gain!

Self Promotion. For some reason that’s foreign to me, I find that business owners do not self promote their status as a business owner. I mean, COME ON! Your own a business! When people ask what you do, tell them. Be honest and proud, I assure you it’s not boasting, it’s factual information.

Just try it. See where these thing lead you. They may not all work, but it’s something different than what you normally do. Chances are, you’re going to get a different result.

Business Card Challenge

I have a quick challenge for you over the weekend.

Clear your mind, for a moment, forget who you are and take a good look at your business card.

What does it say about you and what you represent?

Does it accurately portray the image you want your clients and customers to grasp?

Food for thought.

Spend $$ to Make $$$$

We’ve heard it before. “You have to spend money to make money.”

It’s true, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste money! As you start your next quarters marketing strategy (I’m thinking Christmas?), keep a few things in mind. It will help you stay on the right track with your effort, outcomes and budget.

1. Demographics

That’s right, what’s your demographic? Who are you trying to reach? Where do they live, work and play? How old are they? Do they have kids?

You have to know your target before you can appeal to them. I’ve talked about this before. If you need a brush up, check out 50/60/70/80.

2. Product v. Value

What are you selling? This can be a product or a service. More importantly that the product, you need to be able to explain and show the value. Why does your demographic want what you are selling?

Once you have pinpointed the answer– sell the value. It’s truly the only thing that separates you from your competitor.

3. Voice

How are you going to reach your clients? Mail, email, web, TV, radio, etc.? Knowing your audience will help you make this decision. How you choose to contact your ideal customer is crucial. Spending thousands on a magazine ad is silly if your ideal customer is age 21-35, drinks coffee regularly and has a smart phone- just sayin’.

How you choose to contact them is going to reflect directly on your business and its vibe. Your advertising is essentially your voice. Yelling through a loudspeaker on a busy street might be exactly what you need. Maybe you need to sponsor a local event or school, maybe an old fashioned newspaper ad is more attune to your demographic. Do the research to find out.

4. Execute

Even the best plans are unsuccessful without execution.

Once you know what you’re going to do. Do it.

Don’t put it off- get it done, now. Set yourself a deadline. If you don’t have the time, find a company near by that does. Spending an extra couple hundred may be well worth the time you don’t have. If someone else can do it for you and do it better, than it’s usually worth the extra money.

5. Track Results

Sending a mailer to every resident within 5 miles doesn’t matter if you don’t know how many of your customers are here because of that flyer. You need to know how effective your efforts were. You need to know why they came in and keep them coming back.

So ask them. I mean right there, at the register ask “Did you get our mailer last week?” “Wonderful! If you would like to add your email to our list, we’ll send your our monthly offers.”

 

Plan well, plan effectively and execute.

4 Employee Essentials

So you run a business. In fact, you’ve grown so much that you’ve hired a few employees. Maybe just one, maybe 20. Beyond the complications of just hiring an employee, there’s managing one. Which in the long term, will be much more work than getting them on board.

Interactions with your employees will be complex, however, I have found that breaking it down into 4 categories will make your job much easier.

1. Guidelines

Set the minimum expectations immediately. If there is a dress code, be specific. Using the term ‘business casual’ might be sufficient in your mind, but many teenagers (or even college students) don’t have any clue what you mean. Lay it out in detail – make sure they understand and agree before you assume anything.

Remember to talk about attendance, tardiness and code of conduct. If your employees are customer-facing, it may behoove you to have some type of contract. Let them know upfront what the consequences for failing to meet your expectations will be.

Sit down and make a list of your guidelines. Know them before your preach them. Conversations can get awkward if you’re making up the rules as you go.

2. Goals

It seems so simple. As business owners, we have already set more goals than we can count. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now. Think about how focused and driven you were when you had a goal to achieve. Your employees are going to be the same.

Make it tangible. Don’t ask them to work hard or be nice to everyone. Ask them to get 3 surveys per week or 5 business cards from potential clients. Maybe you’re building your email lists- ask your employee to record 10 per shift. Something worthwhile, tangible and measurable.

3. Critical Conversations

While I will go into this in detail later on, the one thing to remember is that a behavior ignored is a behavior leveraged. Critical conversations have a time deadline – immediate.

If your employee shows up to work late, have the conversation around the expectation they agreed to immediately. If your employee did not greet a customer as they walked through the door, address it immediately.

It sounds like a hassle, but if you don’t address the mistakes, they will become habits.

However, I urge you to give your employee the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had their back to the customer and was engaged in restocking the shelves. Explain what you witnessed, ask for their point of view and ask them to keep a better eye on the door. Usually, this is all it takes to create a good behavior.

4. Recognition

I love to be praised, it’s in my personality. In fact, I would bet that most people love to get praised. This is the most important part of interacting with an employee. Find something they did right every time you see them. You may have to look for it, but it’s there, and they will appreciate the recognition. Frankly, they will work harder to receive your recognition than your critique!

Doing these things are a minimum requirement for having employees and keeping them around. Don’t be afraid of any of these steps. You are the boss- as long as you approach your employee with respect, they will respect you in return.

50/60/70/80

The buzz on Twitter right now is all about finding your customers and actually listening to what they have to say. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this concept. As a business owner, I tend to find myself assuming I know what my current and potential clients want. My dad clearly repeated to me throughout my childhood and beyond what exactly “assuming” does. In case you haven’t heard, I quote, “It makes an ass out of u and me.” So I came up with the 50-60-70-80 rule. And it works.

50
This one is straight forward. Go find your customers. Spend (at least) 50% of your time finding your customers. You will never know what your customers want, or even who they are from inside your store-front or office.

Truth: Your customers don’t care about you. Heck, they don’t even know you exist.

Solution: Go find them. Figure out who they are, what they do, where they live – narrow it down.

It’s much easier (and more cost-effective) to market to a smaller audience, but you can’t do that until you know who they are. I understand your challenges. You are busy, you don’t have any other employees, etc., but you will not- and cannot grow unless you roll up your sleeves and get out there. You want to hire someone to answer phones? Then you’d better have customers calling. Check out the Customer Manifesto from Steve Blank. He sure knows how to hit that nail on the head.

60
While you’re out there finding your niche, you need to listen. This is not the time to market yourself. Your mission is information. Not marketing. We just established that you need to find out who your customers are and what they want before you market to them.

Fact: Marketing can get expensive.Why waste valuable resources on groups of people that will never be your customer.

Listen to what your customers are saying- minimum 60% of you time while your out should be listening. What do they like, where do they shop, who are they, what social media do they use, where do they get their news, what activities do they like? You have to find the answers to these questions before you start anything else. You need to know what type of media they like. There is no sense on putting your efforts into a daily blog if your customers are on twitter – but we’ll talk about this in the “80.”

Spend your time listening while you’re out there. Image

70
Once you’ve listened, or I should say are listening (because this is ongoing, people change), you can start narrowing your focus. Spend 70% of your time in the office on efforts towards attracting and appealing to your target group. You don’t have a business without customers. Yes, you have expenses to manage and sales to achieve and possibly employees (which are also very important, but that’s a whole other blog), but you won’t have those things if you don’t have someone buying your product.

Make these soon-to-be customers your priority. They are your present and your future.

80
Don’t spread yourself thin. Now that you know who your audience is and what they like and want, you can make that your priority. Like I said earlier, don’t spend all your time on a blog if your audience is on Twitter. Don’t ignore your blog, maybe cut it down to once/week or twice/month, you still need to stand out as an expert, but spend 80% of your marketing efforts on things that you know your new found niche will like and respond to.

Check out what Gini Dietrich has to say on this matter, specifically on the social aspect. It follows the same idea for both social media marketing and more traditional approaches.

Not to sound too mushy, but I have complete faith in you and your ability to be successful. I’m sure you do too. Just take a deep breath and don’t assume anything.